Friday, March 09, 2012

Morning Situation

Each morning I am on my own to get the kids out of bed, dressed, cleaned up, fed, lunches made, and out the door on time for school (8:20). Most mornings it looks like:

6:30 - I wake up, get dressed, clear inbox, work stuff ready, and lunches made
7:30 - wake up kids
7:45 - kids actually get out of bed!
7:46 - kids go the bathroom (and read a book or two, lolly-gagging)
7:55 - kids emerge from bathroom (!!!!!!!) And no, they don't have any digestive issues.
7:56-8:19 - Breakfast, maybe eating half of what I think is an appropriate amount, because they are too busy playing around. The rest gets chucked in a container to eat in their carseats en route. And yes, my van is a disaster.
8:20 - dressed/brush hair/teeth - usually I end up stepping in because we are already late
8:28 - actual departure
8:42 - arrival at school a few minutes late, running for the door where invariably somebody falls down and skins their knees.
8:45 - parent-child sharing time (while applying band-aids)
9:00 - sit down in van and smack forehead against steering wheel repeatedly.

Carmen's school is pretty strict about being ON TIME and ready for 15 minutes of parent-child sharing time upon arrival. Mon/Wed Keira stays home with our babysitter (phew!), while Tues/Thurs/Fri I have Keira with us. Those three days are like my own personal hell - trying (or more appropriately, cajoling, wheedling and pleading) to get both kids tickety-boo on time is hard enough. Then we get to school and I have to try to manage (!) Keira while giving Carmen my undivided attention (hasn't happened yet) to tackle the school task at hand. On the best day, this is reading library books together, where it's easy for Keira to take part. On the worst day, this is patiently helping and being present for phonetic reading or learning how a knight moves in chess. Don't get me wrong - I love being involved in my Carmen's schooling and I love her school. I love being at home with my kids, and having Keira-time with just the two of us. But by the time 9am rolls around most mornings, I am exhausted, stressed out and usually feeling some measure of mommy-guilt for failing one of my children in some way, shape or form. And then I start my work day.

Mornings are mine, period. There are some things that I can change, and some things I can't. I can't (nor do I want to) change my involvement in Carmen's schooling. I can't not take Keira to Carmen's class, or afford extra help on days I don't work. But I can change how the morning looks until then - and so enters the 'Morning Agenda'.

Something I have learned from being at school with Carmen, and yes, I consider myself a student too, is that as parents we need to step back and let kids take responsibility for things like getting dressed, remembering what days they need gym strip, and carrying their own bags into class. For the most part I can do this - but the MORNINGS! The dilly-dallying, the lolly-gagging... I feel like if I don't step in, we're going to be late late late. And the kids could care less - it is only me that gets stressed out. BUT. Change is in order, and my kids are totally old enough to handle it.

To say that my kids like their sleep is an understatement. Even though they are asleep by 8pm, they are rarely awake on their own 12hrs later and I have to wake them up for school every morning. I can't even imagine how hard it will be when they are teens!!

This morning I decided to get them up 15 mins early (7:15) and tell them my new plan. They had to go and give a 'check mark' beside the 'Wake Up' task. My oldest is totally into lists and check marks (just like Mommy, go figure) and so her curiosity was piqued. She hopped out of bed in under a minute. I was floored. Keira, who wants to do whatever her older sister is doing, followed right away. WIN!

I explained to them the list of tasks that needed to get checked off:

Wake Up
Go to Bathroom
Get Dressed
Eat Breakfast
Brush Teeth

They were intrigued and excited about making check marks and the possibility of playing if they finished in a reasonable amount of time. I explained to them that there was an alarm on my Timex that would go off at 8:19. I told them that this alarm was 'the boss' - no ifs, ands or buts - we'd have to clean up and leave for school.

While I don't really want to rush my kids through their morning visit to the bathroom (!), I have to say this totally worked. The kids were almost completely independent - all I did was put toothpaste on their brushes and serve breakfast. At 8:13am, the kids were happy PlayMobil'ing in their room together. And by 8:20am we were down the front steps.

We got to school ON TIME. And I was calm. And while Keira was a handful during 'Max the cat sat and sat', I actually had the energy to deal with it.

Way back here I posted about the boards that I use to keep my days in order. I found that the chore boards are completely unused and mostly just covered with random scribbles and phone numbers, so I decided a revamp was in order to show off the new 'Morning Agenda'. Keira painted pictures of dinosaurs while I painted this:

Can't wait until Carmen gets home to see it!

Now to find some pink & purple markers to hang from it to make the check marks...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sausage Fest

My family loves sausage, and each year before Jason's annual hunting trip, we resolve to learn to make sausage, but have somehow never gotten around to it.

But then a few weeks back, I heard about a free Sausage-Making workshop at Williams Sonoma on Granville. Every Sunday they put on a different cooking demo twice a day (11am & 2pm) - Jason and I opted for the later slot since it seemed like attendance would be much lower, and we were right. It was AWESOME and Dana, the instructor, was chock full of tips that I now use in my everyday cooking. While Carmen was glued to the counter as Dana chopped, fried, ground and seasoned, Keira was not-so-entranced and completely surrounded by expensive, breakable things... So while I wouldn't recommend bringing a feisty 3yr-old, an older kid or a babe in arms would be fine. And did I mention that you get 10% off everything in the store following the free workshop? Fun!

Later that week, Jason arrived at home with a 12lb frozen turkey to turn into sausage - he was so excited! After leaving it to thaw, it dawned on me that we would not be able to refreeze the sausage, and that 12lbs of turkey would make a heck-of-a-lot of sausage! So we decided to turn our normal Friday date night into a sausage-making extravaganza, and use the sausage for our daughters' birthday party the following day. No pressure, right?

I walked to Windsor Meats on Main Street to pick up some sausage casings, bought presoaked for 25 cents a foot - my disclaimer is that sausage-making is not for the faint of heart! If you want to make breakfast-size sausages, you opt for sheep intestines, but we opted for pig intestines for the bratwurst-size sausages. I bought 30 feet. This is what it looks like, washed and soaking - appetizing, no?

Armed with my Kitchenaid and the new grinder & sausage stuffing attachments that I bought for 10% off, we set off to work Friday afternoon. Jason's mad hunting skillz were quickly appreciated when faced with carving a raw and partially-frozen turkey. We opted to put the kidney & heart into the mix, and used both breasts (skin on) but only one leg. The other leg and wings were for dinner on Sunday night! Because we used a high-quality bird, we used the skin to add some fat to the mix (Dana tip), while some people might opt to add pork fat. I know, it sounds gross, but like I said - not for the faint of heart.

The meat grinder worked like a dream, and of course the beer-drinking that accompanied the grinding helped keep a festive date-night atmosphere! Add to that a healthy dose of sausage innuendo...

I opted to fry my mustard seeds and fennel seeds in a bit of butter, before adding some onion to the saute pan. I chopped some fresh thyme and rosemary from the garden, and then finished the seasonings off with dijon mustard and salt & pepper. This needed to cool before we added it to the meat.

One of the invaluable tips we learned in the demo was to mix everything together and then fry up a bit of the sausage mix to make sure it tasted good BEFORE stuffing 30 feet of casings. Makes sense, hey? But I've never thought about applying this to hamburgers, cabbage rolls, etc. Smart cookie, that Dana.

The next tip we learned was to make sure the meat was allowed to rest for 2-3hrs refrigerated before stuffing the casings. This allows the fat to congeal (gross) so everything sticks together, removing the need for any binding ingredients. The same principle can be applied to burgers, etc. Another great tip.

While the meat rested, our awesome teenaged twin babysitters arrived for their usual 2hr date-night stint. We headed out for a workout. Some people might think that is a lame date, but we really like it!

Upon our return, I pulled the Kitchenaid out and fitted the stuffing attachment on, then started setting up the casings after putting a bit of olive oil over the stuffing attachment to make it slippery (another great Dana tip). And yes, I know what it looks like - get your mind out of the gutter!

By about 10:30pm, we had 37 sausages. So not only was this a pretty fun experiment, it was also totally cost-effective! Because we used the whole bird for the stuffing, I think the sausages were also much healthier and better quality than what you would normally buy in the store. I'll admit that it's a two-person job, and still pretty time-consuming... but we still had fun!

And we have it on good word that the sausages were pretty darned tasty. Every single one of them was eaten the next afternoon!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

You Say Good-bye, I Say Hello!

In the spirit of Spring Cleaning, here are a few of the things we've said 'good-bye' to in the last little while...

1. Jason's Motorbike (wahoo!)
2. The POTTY (double wahoo!)
3. Store-bought cleaning supplies (even the eco-friendly ones)
4. Preschool, kindergarten and childcare-related stress
5. Yelling (me - that's another post entirely)

A few things we've recently said 'hello' to...

1. Triathlon Training
2. A Naturopath (Jason) and a new RMT (both of us)
3. The 3yr-old partially-pieced stash quilt jammed into my sewing drawer!
4. Sunday morning 'date-runs'
5. Cod Liver Oil (blech!)
6. The Grow Lights

What have you said good-bye and hello to?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lil' Tri Girl Resurrected?

Well, it's certainly been awhile. Nearly six years, actually, since I did my last triathlon - the Squamish Tri in 2005, the official first day of my pregnancy with Carmen! Crazy how time flies when you're procreating. I miss it though - the training and goal-setting, the excitement, biking around soaking wet... it's how I met my man.

OMG - these pictures are so old I actually had to SCAN them in. Geesh. And damnit, I have no idea where my lucky red bandana has gone. This is a bunch of us after the Squamish Tri in 2004 - the race that I trained for with Jason and totally fell in love with him...

And this is Jason and I at the New Balance Half Iron in 2005, right after we got engaged and decided to have babies...

In any event, I decided to sign up for an event, FINALLY. Actually, I meant to sign up for one a while ago, then forgot, then it sold out... yada yada yada, and those are the days of our lives!

And so, for the second time I will be doing the North Shore Sprint Triathlon on the Victoria Day weekend - May 23, Keira's original due date. It seems fitting, no? I did the event way back in 2004 and remember lots of happy, smiling faces on the sidelines cheering me on through the run. I will probably need it a lot more this time through!

My goal is to finish and have fun, decide if I still LIKE triathlon (!) and enjoy the training up until the event. Honestly, my husband talked me down from signing up for an Olympic distance, arguing that I could 'off the couch' the Sprint distance without too much risk of injury, based on my existing 30 mins here and 35 mins there of training time! He's a smart man, and so I agreed to maybe aim for an Olympic (Vancouver Tri) over the Labour Day weekend, so I can have the summer to fit in some longer rides when he is home from school. It also mirrors the baby-steps approach I took to my training in the first place - lots of sprints, a bunch of Olympics and then finally the Half Iron.

And so today I headed to the pool for a straight-up 30 laps to see how it felt (boring!), and secretly compare it to my time in 2004. I think that's going to be the hardest part for me is NOT competing with myself in that way. I used to sit at a desk all day and then literally SPRING into my swim, bike or run. Nowadays, I am fitting my brief spurts of training in after teaching a few classes and keeping up with my kids all day. Who knows - maybe my kids have turned me into a triathlon MACHINE?

Here's hoping. I do want to still love it, and eventually talk my husband into doing it together again...